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Cape to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 7, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Individuals are encouraged to wear purple on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, to bring awareness, as well as attend an event at Lake Kennedy Senior Center the same day.

Sherry Young, AAASWFL Elder Abuse Prevention Coordinator, said with the Lake Kennedy Senior Center always hosting a big dance on Fridays with a lunch for their clients, they decided to hold a WEAAD event at the center from 9 a.m. until noon Friday, June 15.

"It's a big traffic day there. While they are having their dance and luncheon I will have a table set up with information about elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. I will talk about how they can protect themselves and hopefully not become a victim," Young said. "It's just kind of an informational booth. We have all kinds of brochures, pamphlets and goodies."

Lake Kennedy Senior Center Senior Recreation Specialist Carla Platter said the community is more than welcome to stop by and visit with Young and pick up information.

"The parking is going to be challenging," she said, due to the morning dance drawing 100 people. "People are welcome to try. We like new people."

Platter said they have information about elder abuse at the center all the time.

"We have a resource center. Between all of us and staff we can guide people in the right direction," she said.

Young said World Elder Abuse Awareness Day began to recognize the different types of abuse that occur, as well as making individuals aware, so folks will not only prevent abuse from taking place, but also report neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, began in 2006 to recognize the significance of elder abuse, and recognizing it as a public health and human rights issue.

"We have seven counties that we serve in Southwest Florida for our agency," Young said. "I try to take a week and a half in the middle of June to do events all over."

"In the state of Florida we are mandatory reporters. We let people know under Florida Statute we are mandated to report any suspected cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation," Young said. "You never have to have proof. It's up to adult protection services to handle when they do their investigation."

In terms of awareness, Young said there are many warning signs one can look for, such as bruising, cuts and injuries that cannot be easily explained. Furthermore one can look for such signs as an elder suddenly becoming withdrawn, depressed and very isolated.

"That's usually because the abuser is trying to keep them isolated," Young said.

As far as neglect, such signs as dehydration, malnutrition, soiled bedding and clothing, as well as the lack of utilities and water.

Young said individuals should pay attention to any changes in someone's behavior and demeanor when in the presence of the person abusing them. She said the person can become very withdrawn and quiet, non-responsive, afraid to talk openly, confused, disoriented, agitated and fearful.

The problem of elder abuse occurs everywhere but, unfortunately, Young said it is seen here more because so many people retire to Florida. She said there are a lot of older folks who live alone after moving to Florida with their spouse who has since passed away.

"An older adult living alone becomes more fragile and it puts them at risk and makes them more vulnerable," Young said, adding that they might not have someone checking on them on a regular basis.

Abuse, she said, can go undetected for quite some time in this scenario.

Self-neglect is among the highest type of elder-related issue reported.

Although it is hard to determine an active number, Young said only one out of 14 cases is reported because the victim is afraid to report the issue due to possible repercussions..

During 2016-2017, Young said there was just under 58,000 cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation. She said with only one out of 14 acts of abuse being reported, you can only imagine how many more cases there would be.

Ninety-percent of the time the abusers are the family members.

"There is a little over 6 million adults over the age of 60," Young said of Florida residents. "That number keeps growing because people are living longer, more people retiring."

Young said it is important for people to call 800-96 ABUSE, which can be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

"Once they talk to the counselor on the phone to give their report it goes to an investigator within 24-hours. Callers should provide as much detail as possible to help the investigation. They don't have to have absolute proof that there is abuse," Young said.

She said it is also important to call 911 if the individual believes the elder is in immediate danger, or harm.

"They are still going to want to make that report to the abuse hotline, but services can be put into place to help the victim. They will get those steps in motion and make it safe for the victim," Young said.



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